Words: Abigail Blasi
Had enough of Christmas already? Mix it up in London, where there are plenty of alternative festive delights ranging from sword-swallowing in Leicester Square to Christmas crab in Marylebone.
1. Try a Miracle at Henrietta Hotel
The Experimental Group has brought its famous Christmas Miracle pop-up bar from NYC to the Henrietta Hotel for the second time. Ascending to the mezzanine, you can’t help but feel the holiday spirit: festive classics pipe the way to a ’70s Christmas, complete with tree, fireplace, fuzzy TV and cheerfully gaudy snow-dusted trees and gingerbread houses. Mixologists blend vintage-meet-modern classics, such as the Snowball Old Fashioned, served in fabulously Christmassy drinkware, which you can even buy and take home with you.
2. Peer through your fingers at La Clique at Leicester Square
With lashings of loucheness, hosted by the suggestive fraülein Bernie Dieter, Le Clique brings its Cabaret-meets-Coney Island circus to the intimate spiegeltent in Leicester Square. Some of the body-defying acts will have you watching through your fingers, with each act displaying virtuoso brilliance and sparkling with humour, from bath acrobatics to sword swallowing.
3. Sing Carol-oke at Winter Wonderland
Winter Wonderland may be mostly rollercoasters, clanking ghost trains and Paddington on Ice, but it has its quirky corners. And no more so than at Bar Hütte, where in cosy wooden huts, you can bellow out a Christmassy song or six. Hallelujah!
4. Step through the wardrobe at Backyard Cinema
At the Backyard Cinema, you don’t merely go see a film, but enter it via a magical wardrobe and an enchanted forest. You won’t necessarily find Narnia, but are assured festive food carts, music, mulled wine, and a fairylit screen. Christmas classics include Home Alone and the Muppets Christmas Carol.
5. Eat some damn Fancy Crab
Marylebone’s Fancy Crab specialises in Red King Crab and has just launched a Christmas menu that’s a world away from pigs in blankets. Their Christmas menu is largely devoted to their favourite ingredient. Start with crab pastel and crab bonbon, follow with 200g of grilled Red King Crab, then finish with crème brulee (no crab).
6. Interact with Lights at Seven Dials
The best London Christmas lights are those at Seven Dials in Covent Garden. Why? They’re interactive. Tap in a £3 donation at the tap point on Earlham Street and you’ll be helping Shelter, the homeless charity, and the lights will flicker with joy.
7. Cavort at the Vaults
Enter Waterloo’s Vaults this Christmas and you’ll find yourself in the ‘Dance Before Christmas’, an immersive entertainment in a dilapidated underground palace, with cavorting beasties, romping belles and Grimm tales. Eat and drink your way around and become part of the theatrical tale as you go.
8. Go Human curling at QUEENS
At Queensway Ice Rink, there’s a twist on the sport of curling: jump onto oversized rubber doughnuts and skedaddle as fast as you can across the ice, 20m, as close as you can get to the bullseye.
9. Glide around Tiffany & Co’s Scented Icerink
Glide your way into a New York state of mind at the East Piazza of Covent Garden this year, where there’s a NYC-style rink surrounded by outsized jewellery boxes, centred on a huge snow globe-covered perfume bottle, and scented by Tiffany’s signature scent.
10. Feast on a Gherkin breakfast
Forget turkey menus and Pret-with-trimmings. Make your Christmas sparkle properly with a festive breakfast at Helix: feast on smoked salmon, homemade waffles or full English, all paired with Laurent Perrier champagnes, while you overlook head-spinningly spectacular city views through the glass-walled Gherkin.